Buono-Vitale Express Disappointment Resolution To Overturn Governor’s Medicaid Waiver Failed

Senators: ‘If Left Unchecked, Governor’s Rule-Change Would Decimate Health Care Safety Net’

TRENTON – Senators Barbara Buono and Joseph F. Vitale, the sponsors of a concurrent resolution which would override the Governor’s veto of language in the FY 2012 Budget prohibiting him from making drastic and draconian changes to New Jersey’s Medicaid system, expressed disappointment that Senate Republicans failed to stand with the majority caucus in overturning the veto.

According to the Senators, under the Administration’s proposed rule change through the Comprehensive Medicaid waiver, income eligibility for Medicaid and New Jersey Family Care would be reduced from 133% of the federal poverty level, or $29,726 a year for a family of four, to just 25% of the federal poverty level, or $5,588 a year in income for a family of four. The new income threshold, in addition to increased co-pays, a cap on medical spending and lowering the threshold for the duration or scope of services, would result in thousands of New Jersey residents losing access to health care.

“The Governor’s line-item veto of the Medicaid Waiver language was cruel and vindictive, and puts New Jersey’s working poor in jeopardy of losing access to health care,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “The fact that none of my colleagues from across the aisle could generate a single vote of conscience on this measure shutting the door on the Governor’s dangerous cuts to Medicaid speaks volumes about their priorities. We should not be balancing our State budget on the backs of those who can least afford it, and by giving the Governor carte-blanche to impose draconian rules on Medicaid, we’re allowing him to decimate the State’s health care safety net.”

“I’m disappointed, and frankly, shocked that not one of my colleagues in the Republican caucus had the courage to buck their party and do the right thing to preserve Medicaid,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “This is a program designed specifically to make sure that everyone has access to quality health care, regardless of personal income or medical necessity. If we can’t stand up for our most vulnerable residents through this budget, we’ve failed the constituents who’ve elected us to represent their interests in State government.”

The resolution, SCR-202, would have overridden the Governor’s line-item veto of a provision in the Democratic Budget imposing restrictions on the elements that the State could include in a Comprehensive Medicaid Waiver application to the federal government. Specifically, the resolution would prohibit the Administration from doing four things through the proposed comprehensive waiver:

a) Lower the income eligibility threshold or reimbursement rates;

b) Limit the amount, duration or scope of services;

c) Impose new or increased co-pays; or

d) Impose a State or federal cap on spending or reimbursement.

“At the end of the day, thankfully, New Jersey can’t impose these drastic cuts to services without federal sign-off,” said Senator Vitale. “Hopefully, federal administrators will succeed where New Jersey Republicans have failed, and support a healthy Medicaid program targeted at helping those in greatest need achieve access to decent, affordable health care. I’m inclined to believe that the federal government won’t let New Jersey shirk its responsibility to the working poor and uninsured, but this is a proposal which should never have even been introduced to begin with.”

“I hope that federal regulators do what our Republican colleagues in the Senate cannot, and stand up to the Governor and his plans to slash a valuable safety net program to help the working poor and uninsured access health care,” said Senator Buono. “That the Governor would even consider balancing his budget on the backs of Medicaid recipients is reprehensible and repugnant. I’m disappointed in the minority members of the Senate and their failure to stand up for working poor New Jerseyans, and I urge our State’s federal representatives to let Washington know where the rest of us stand on the future of New Jersey’s Medicaid and Family Care programs.”

The resolution was approved by 24 senators – all Democrats – but required a 2/3 majority vote, or 27 votes in the affirmative, to overturn the Governor’s line-item veto.